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Weekly Current Affairs (15th to 21st September 2022) - 2 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC PDF Download

Role of Philanthropy in Accelerating Economic Growth

Context:

  • Through philanthropy, India can reach a per capita income of USD15,000 by India@100 by 2047, accelerating inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

What is Philanthropy?

  • Philanthropy refers to charitable acts or other good works that help others or society as a whole.
  • Philanthropy can include donating money to a worthy cause or volunteering time, effort, or other forms of altruism.

What do we Know about Philanthropy in India?

Pre-Industrial India:

  • Philanthropy has long been embedded in the fabric of Indian society and contributed heavily to the creation of modern-day India.
  • Pre-industrial India saw business families giving away a proportion of their income to local charities.
  • Industrialization enabled rapid wealth creation, business leaders like Sir Jamsetji Tata voiced their opinions on using wealth for social good, donating vast amounts to create exemplary institutions.

During Freedom Struggle:

  • Mahatma Gandhi encouraged businessmen to contribute their wealth to society as India's Independence movement began.
  • Industrialists like Jamnalal Bajaj and G.D. Birla supported Mahatma Gandhi’s initiatives during the freedom movement while pursuing their own philanthropic interests.

What is the Philanthropic Model in the United States?

  • With prominent leaders at the forefront, Indian philanthropy was thriving, simultaneously, America was witnessing the Carnegie-Rockefeller era of philanthropy.
  • Andrew Carnegie built impressive institutions (like Carnegie Library and Carnegie Mellon University), but also inspired (and instigated) the rich.
  • The last line of his book reads: “The man who dies rich, dies disgraced."
  • John D. Rockefeller, a hard-nosed monopolist, eventually donated large amounts of money to systemic reforms, especially to improve the education system.
  • The Rockefeller Foundation also developed the vaccine to eradicate yellow fever.

What are the Major Challenges inhibited Indian Philanthropy?

A Trust Deficit:

  • Budding philanthropists haven’t yet come to fully appreciate the good work being done in the impact sector.
  • Parochial Nature of Giving:
  • The parochial nature of giving risks some of the poorest parts of the country being ignored.

Programmatic Nature of Giving:

  • The results of programmatic giving are unsatisfactory.
  • Example: a number of foundations and NGOs work on school education, yet learning outcomes have not improved.

What should be the Way Forward?

Build Institutions:

  • In order to build new universities in India, collective philanthropy is needed.
  • To improve their rankings, IIT and IIM alumni could fund research centers.
  • Donors can fund think-tanks and build area-specific (say, on energy transition) or geography-specific (such as eastern Uttar Pradesh) institutions.

Example:

  • The Tata family continued Jamsetji Tata’s tradition of philanthropy and has been a pioneer in building institutions like the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), Tata Memorial Hospital, etc.

Fund Risky R&D for the Government:

  • Governments are the principal actors in the social sector and spend crores on education, health, etc.
  • However, the government is a behemoth and can’t experiment or innovate on a continuous basis, state capacity is also limited.
  • Philanthropists can fund innovative models and test new ideas through non-profits by building evidence, advocating for policy change and supporting government implementation.
  • Example:
  • Nandan Nilekani built an innovation ecosystem which supports the government in developing a best-in-class digital architecture for India (think of Aadhaar, Unified Payments Interface and eKYC).

Support Governments to Improve Delivery:

  • Partnering with the government as a philanthropic entity is the most effective way to make a scalable and sustainable impact.
  • For this, philanthropists need to change their orientation from funding programme delivery through NGOs (like funding mid-day meals in schools) to initiatives which improve the government’s system of delivery.
  • Example:
    • The Piramal Foundation is supporting the Aspirational Districts collective, Veddis Foundation is funding initiatives to improve the evidence base and outcome orientation of governments.

Enable Economic Growth:

  • Philanthropists can use their wealth and experience to advocate policies, support the improvement of enabling conditions for investment, exports and job creation, and help transform India’s economy.

Future of the Commonwealth

Context:

  • The death of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, marks not only the end of an era for the British monarchy but also a turning point for the 14 Commonwealth realms of which she was the Head of State.

What is the Background?

  • There has been a significant transformation of the socio-economic environment in the 14 realms countries since the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
  • Several countries out of these 14 called to establish a republic and break free of historical ties to the British monarchy.
    • A republic is a form of government in which "supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives".
  • Thus, it is likely that during the reign of the incumbent King Charles III, the Queen’s successor, more nations will follow in the footsteps of Barbados.
    • In 2021, Barbados became the 18th country to remove the British monarch from the role of head of state and substitute them with a national government functionary.

What is the Commonwealth?

About:

  • The Commonwealth of Nations is a group of 56 countries composed mostly of former British colonies.
  • It was established by the London Declaration in 1949.
  • While members of the Commonwealth are predominantly located in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific, with many of them emerging economies, the three European members of the group are Cyprus, Malta, and the U.K.
  • The developed nations of the Commonwealth are Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

Republics and Realms:

  • The Commonwealth consists of both Republics and Realms.
  • The British monarch is the Head of State for the realms, whereas the republics are ruled by elected governments except in the case of five countries — Brunei Darussalam, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malaysia, and Tonga — each a self-governed monarchy.
    • The realms are Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.

What is the Commonwealth's Relevance in Today's World?

  • Although the Commonwealth may seem like an outdated forum after the death of the queen, yet it retains a suitable relevance which has sustained it over time even after the decolonization of the British Empire.
  • In the age of multilateral diplomacy, where states want a forum to express their views, advance their interests and shape global norms, the Commonwealth provides precisely such a forum.
  • The monarch is only the symbolic head, the leaders of the free world make the Commonwealth work.
  • Throughout her reign, Queen Elizabeth played a critical role in championing the organisation and maintaining the group’s relevance, regularly travelling to meet with leaders of Commonwealth nations across the world.

What is the Future of Commonwealth?

  • Australia, Newzealand, and the Bahamas are likely to become Republics in future.
  • Governments in five other Caribbean nations — Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica and Saint Kitts and Nevis — have signalled their intention to act similarly.
  • Thus, it is not beyond imagination that following the death of Queen Elizabeth, the Commonwealth realms might fade into being a relic of the past, and nations that suffered a history of colonialism — along with its attendant violence and resource extraction — will move forward to establish themselves as republics.

ECI Seeks Limit on Cash Donations

Context:

  • Recently, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has suggested a slew of amendments to RP (Representation of People Act) Act, 1951 to increase transparency and accountability on the part of candidates.

What are the Concerns?

  • It was found that while donations reported by some political parties were nil, their audited accounts statement showed receipt of huge amounts, proving large-scale transactions in cash, below the threshold limit of Rs 20,000.
  • Another area of concern that has been identified by the EC is the violation of foreign exchange regulations.

What are the Key Recommendations of ECI?

Report Donations above Rs 2000:

  • All donations above Rs 2,000 should be reported, thereby enhancing transparency in funding.
  • As per rules, political parties have to disclose all donations above Rs 20,000 through their contribution report that is submitted to the EC.

Digital or Cheque Transactions:

  • Make digital transactions or account payee cheque transfers mandatory for all expenses above Rs 2,000 to a single entity/person.

Limit Cash Donations:

  • Restrict cash donations at 20% or at maximum Rs 20 crore out of the total funds received by a party, whichever is less.

Separate Bank Account:

  • Every fielding candidate should open a separate bank account for election purposes and route all expenses and receipts through this account, and furnish these details in their account of election expenditure.

Segregate Foreign Donations:

  • The EC has also sought “electoral reforms” to ensure that no foreign donations creep into the funds of the parties as stipulated under the RP Act and the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010.
  • At present, there is no mechanism to segregate foreign donations at the initial stages specifically, and the present format of contribution report.

What is ECI?

About:

  • The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India.
  • The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, and State Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country.
  • Originally the commission had only one election commissioner but after the Election Commissioner Amendment Act 1989, it has been made a multi-member body.
  • The commission consists of one Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners

Constitutional Provisions:

  • Part XV of the Indian constitution deals with elections, and establishes a commission for these matters.
  • The Election Commission was established in accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950.
  • Article 324 to 329 of the constitution deals with powers, function, tenure, eligibility, etc of the commission and the members.

Ethereum Merger

Context:

  • Recently, the Ethereum blockchain platform fully transitioned from ‘proof of work’ to a ‘proof-of-stake’ consensus mechanism and this revamp is known as the Merge.

What has Exactly Changed?

Old Method:

  • Proof of Work: As a decentralised platform, Ethereum doesn't have institutions like banks approving the transactions that happen on its network – the approvals were earlier happening under the Proof of Work(PoW) consensus mechanism which was essentially done by miners.
  • Under it, the miners would compete to solve complex mathematical puzzles using a massive infrastructure of cutting-edge computer hardware, and the first one to solve the puzzle would be chosen as the validator.
  • This method was almost entirely dependent on crypto farms, which are massive warehouses lined with rows of computers which would solve the puzzles.

Issues:

  • High Energy Consumption: These mining farms were energy guzzlers and they sometimes consumed more electricity than entire countries and were, therefore, a big concern in terms of environmental sustainability.
  • The crypto’s total annualised power consumption nearly matches that of Finland, while its carbon footprint is comparable to Switzerland.
  • For some time, European countries even mulled a crypto mining ban, while China actually carried out a nationwide crackdown on crypto miners, sending them fleeing overseas.

New Method:

  • Proof of Stake: It would set aside the need for crypto miners and gigantic mining farms, which had previously driven the blockchain under a mechanism called ‘proof-of-work’ (PoW).
  • Instead, it has now shifted to a ‘proof-of-stake’ (PoS) mechanism that assigns ‘validators’ randomly to approve transactions and earn a small reward.
    • Validators are people who volunteer a computer to maintain the blockchain's integrity by constantly computing the linkage from the first block to the last.

Benefits:

  • This would entirely eliminate the need for miners on the Ethereum network.
  • It will reduce ethereum’s energy consumption by nearly 99.95%.
  • It will make transactions on the Ethereum network extremely secure.

What do we Know about Ethereum?

  • Ethereum is one of the most used platforms by developers to build decentralised apps (dApps), smart contracts, and even crypto tokens. The platform’s currency, Ether is only second to Bitcoin in terms of market capitalisation.
  • Some of the most popular applications of cryptocurrencies such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and decentralised finance (DeFi) are based on the Ethereum network.

What is Cryptocurrency?

  • Cryptocurrency, sometimes called crypto-currency or crypto, is any form of currency that exists digitally or virtually and uses cryptography to secure transactions.
  • Cryptocurrencies don't have a central issuing or regulating authority, instead using a decentralized system to record transactions and issue new units.
    • It is supported by a decentralized peer-to-peer network called the blockchain.

What is Blockchain Technology?

  • Blockchain technology ensures that all transactions in cryptocurrencies are recorded in a public financial transaction database.
    • Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple are a few notable examples of cryptocurrencies.
  • Blockchain derives its name from the digital databases or ledgers where information is stored as “blocks’’ that are coupled together to form “chains”.
    • It offers a singular combination of permanent and tamper-evident record-keeping, real-time transaction transparency, and auditability.
    • An exact copy of the blockchain is available to each of the multiple computers or users who are joined together in a network.
    • Any new information added or altered via a new block is to be vetted and approved by over half the total users.

Asian Development Bank (ADB) Loan to Himachal Pradesh

Context:

  • Recently, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India signed a USD 96.3-million loan agreement to provide safe drinking water and improve water supply and sanitation services in the state of Himachal Pradesh.

What are the Key Highlights of the Project?

About:

  • The project is aligned with the objectives of the Government of India’s Jal Jeevan Mission which aims to provide piped water to all rural households by 2024.
  • It will upgrade water supply infrastructure and strengthen institutional capacity to ensure safe, sustainable, and inclusive rural water supply and sanitation services.

Features:

  • Water Supply Infrastructure Revamping: Although more than 90% of the state's rural population has access to drinking water, the water supply infrastructure needs revamping, for efficient and improved service quality.
  • Fecal Management Programme: A pilot fecal sludge management and sanitation programme will also be implemented in Sirmaur District, benefiting 250,000 residents.
  • Strengthen Jal Shakti Vibhag: The project will strengthen the capacity of the Jal Shakti Vibhag of the Government of Himachal Pradesh and gram panchayat (local government) village water and sanitation committees. It will support the state government's water tariff policy reforms and introduce an asset management system at the state-level and district asset management plans.
    • Key project stakeholders and community-based organisations will be trained on water management, including livelihood skills training for women's self-help groups.

What is Asian Development Bank?

  • ADB, established in 1966 is owned by 68 members-49 from the region.
  • It is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty.
  • Further, it assists members and partners by providing loans, technical assistance, grants, and equity investments to promote social and economic development.
  • It aims to promote social and economic development in Asia and the Pacific.
  • As of 31st December 2019, ADB’s five largest shareholders are Japan and the United States (each with 15.6% of total shares), the People’s Republic of China (6.4%), India (6.3%), and Australia (5.8%).
  • It is headquartered in Manila, Philippines.

Stubble Burning

Context:

  • Recently, the Delhi government announced that it would spray Pusa bio-decomposer free of cost over 5,000 acres of paddy fields in the city as this would help in controlling stubble burning and air pollution during winter.

What is Pusa Bio-Decomposer?

About:

  • It is essentially a fungi-based liquid solution that can soften hard stubble to the extent that it can be easily mixed with soil in the field to act as compost.
  • The fungi thrive at 30-32 degree Celsius, which is the temperature prevailing when paddy is harvested and wheat is sown.
  • It produce enzymes to digest cellulose, lignin and pectin in paddy straw.
  • It is developed by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and named after ICAR’s campus at Pusa in Delhi,
  • It rapidly converts crop residues, animal waste, dung and other waste into organic manure.
  • It is an inexpensive and effective technology for agricultural waste and crop residue management.

Benefits:

  • The decomposer improves the fertility and productivity of the soil as the stubble works as manure and compost for the crops and lesser fertiliser consumption is required in the future.
  • The soil loses its richness due to stubble burning and it also destroys the useful bacteria and fungi in the soil, apart from causing harm to the environment.
  • It is an efficient and effective, cheaper, doable and practical technique to stop stubble burning.
  • It is an eco-friendly and environmentally useful technology and will contribute to achieve Swachh Bharat Mission.

What is Stubble Burning?

About:

  • Stubble (parali) burning is a method of removing paddy crop residues from the field to sow wheat from the last week of September to November, coinciding with the withdrawal of southwest monsoon.
  • Stubble burning is a process of setting on fire the straw stubble, left after the harvesting of grains, like paddy, wheat, etc. It is usually required in areas that use the combined harvesting method which leaves crop residue behind.
  • It is a common practice in October and November across North West India, but primarily in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.

Effects of Stubble Burning:

  • Pollution:
    • Emits large amounts of toxic pollutants in the atmosphere which contain harmful gases like methane (CH4), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Volatile Organic compounds (VOC) and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
    • These pollutants disperse in the surroundings, may undergo a physical and chemical transformation and eventually adversely affect human health by causing a thick blanket of smog.
  • Soil Fertility:
    • Burning husk on the ground destroys the nutrients in the soil, making it less fertile.
  • Heat Penetration:
    • The heat generated by stubble burning penetrates into the soil, leading to the loss of moisture and useful microbes.

Alternatives to Stubble Burning:

  • In-Situ Treatment of Stubble: For example, crop residue management by zero-tiller machine and Use of bio-decomposers.
  • Ex-Situ (off-site) Treatment: For example, Use of rice straw as cattle fodder.
  • Use of Technology- For example Turbo Happy Seeder (THS) machine, which can uproot the stubble and also sow seeds in the area cleared. The stubble can then be used as mulch for the field.

What is Other Related Initiative?

  • The State Governments of Punjab, National Capital Region (NCR) States and the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) have developed detailed monitorable action plans based on the framework by the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) to tackle the problem of air pollution.

Way Forward

  • As we know, burning stubble destroys a helpful raw material, pollutes the air, causes respiratory diseases and worsens greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the need of the hour is to make constructive use of stubble as animal feed and further utilise technology by enabling various alternatives like Turbo-Happy Seeder Machine and Bio-Decomposer etc.

eSIMs Technology

Context:

  • Apple Inc., an American multinational technology company, has come up without a physical SIM slot or an eSIM in order to access mobile networks.

What is an e-SIM?

  • eSIMs were first established in 2012.
  • It is an embedded SIM, which is permanently embedded in the same hardware of a regular sim card chip.
  • Just like a traditional SIM card, an eSIM also consists of some components, which are part of a phone's internal organs. They also function the same way, acting as a unique identifier for telecom operators and other consumers to reach your exact smartphone when they make a call or send a text.
  • However, being attached to the motherboard also allows re-programming, letting users switch operators without having to replace any physical SIM cards.

What are the Advantages?

Security:

  • An eSIM provides security to sim theft, as there is no physical element to pull out and use in another device.
  • Attackers cannot use your phone after being robbed to breach your social media or bank accounts.

One less opening on your phone:

  • One less opening on the frame of your phone reduce the likelihood of elements like dust and water entering the phone.
  • It also saves some space on the inside of the phone to be used elsewhere.

What are the Disadvantages?

Emergencies:

  • If your phone stops working, runs out of battery or simply falls and gets a cracked screen, your communication is brought to a complete standstill with eSIMs. Traditional SIMs, meanwhile, can be quickly pulled out of the affected phone and into another backup device or secondary phone.
  • Unusable in countries with no eSIM support:
  • eSIM phones cannot be used in a country where the telecom operators simply don’t support the technology yet.
  • This isn’t an issue if your phone supports both eSIM and traditional SIMs, but is a problem on devices like the US-version iPhone 14, which will solely rely on eSIM alone.

Telcos have more control:

  • An eSIM may save one’s initial trip to the telecom operator’s store to get a SIM card, but one has to rely on the operator while switching one’s phone.
  • Operators may charge extra for eSIM plans or for switching phones, in the future.
The document Weekly Current Affairs (15th to 21st September 2022) - 2 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC is a part of the UPSC Course Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly.
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FAQs on Weekly Current Affairs (15th to 21st September 2022) - 2 - Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC

1. What is the role of philanthropy in accelerating economic growth?
Ans. Philanthropy plays a crucial role in accelerating economic growth by providing funding and resources to support various initiatives and projects. It helps in creating opportunities for entrepreneurship, innovation, and job creation. By investing in education, healthcare, infrastructure, and social development, philanthropists contribute to long-term economic growth and sustainable development.
2. What is the future of the Commonwealth?
Ans. The future of the Commonwealth holds immense potential for collaboration, development, and global impact. As an intergovernmental organization comprising 54 member countries, the Commonwealth aims to promote democracy, human rights, sustainable development, and economic growth among its diverse nations. With a focus on youth empowerment, gender equality, and climate change, the Commonwealth is expected to play a significant role in addressing global challenges and fostering inclusive and prosperous societies.
3. What is the significance of the ECI seeking a limit on cash donations?
Ans. The Election Commission of India (ECI) seeking a limit on cash donations is significant in promoting transparency and reducing the influence of black money in politics. By imposing restrictions on cash donations to political parties, the ECI aims to curb the flow of illicit funds, ensure fair elections, and enhance the accountability of political parties. This move encourages a shift towards digital transactions, promoting a more transparent and legitimate political funding system.
4. What does the Ethereum merger refer to?
Ans. The Ethereum merger refers to the process of transitioning from the current proof-of-work (PoW) consensus mechanism to a proof-of-stake (PoS) mechanism called Ethereum 2.0. This upgrade aims to improve scalability, security, and energy efficiency of the Ethereum blockchain. The merger involves combining the Beacon Chain and the Ethereum mainnet, allowing users to stake their Ether (ETH) holdings to secure the network and earn rewards. It is a significant development for the Ethereum ecosystem and its community.
5. What is the significance of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) loan to Himachal Pradesh?
Ans. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) loan to Himachal Pradesh holds significant importance in supporting the state's development projects and initiatives. The loan provides financial assistance for infrastructure development, urban services, tourism, and environmental sustainability in Himachal Pradesh. It helps in improving connectivity, enhancing livelihood opportunities, and promoting inclusive growth in the state. The ADB loan acts as a catalyst for economic development and reinforces the partnership between the bank and the state government.
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